Gerard Leon Cafesjian was born in 1925 in Brooklyn, in the not very prosperous area of New York.
During WWII, Cafesjian served in the US Navy. Gerard Cafesjian graduated from Hunter College in New York with a bachelor’s degree in economics. Then, he studied in “St. Johns Law School” and received a Ph.D. degree in law.
In 1952, Cafesjian began his career as a legal editor at the world-famous publishing company West Publishing. In 1960, he moved to the state of Minnesota in order to continue working in the headquarters of West Publishing.
Moving up the career ladder, Cafesjian held various key positions, including an advertising director, vice president of marketing and sales, director of government relations, executive vice president, and member of the board of directors.
Thanks to the knowledge and efforts of Gerard L. Cafesjian throughout 44 years, West Publishing gained a strong position in the market, and the number of its employees increased from 2,000 to 6,500.
All his life, Mr. Cafesjian was actively engaged in business. He was a shareholder of the renowned Italian restaurant Campiello, the network of stylish Italian restaurants D’Amico & Sons consisting of thirteen small restaurants, and D’Amico Catering, a leading company in the organization of buffet parties in Minnesota.
Cafesjian was a co-owner of a number of large companies in the fields of energy, media, financial services, real estate trading, software, and telecommunications. In addition, he was a co-owner of Jamba Juice Company and wineries in Italy and Hungary. Cafesjian also occupied a significant position in the real estate market in Florida and Minnesota.
Mr. Cafesjian, managing his capital, paid great attention to charitable activities which were aimed at resolving national issues. In 1996, he founded the Cafesjian Family Foundation, the activities of which are now mainly aimed at improving the living standards and well-being of the Armenian people. More than 50 million US dollars were invested by Mr. Cafesjian in this fund in order to maintain the cultural and historical values of Armenia.
Cafesjian was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Armenian Genocide Museum in Washington. The Cafesjian Family Foundation made a significant donation to the museum and the construction of a memorial to the victims of the genocide.
Since its inception, the Cafesjian Family Foundation has provided grants to certain organizations operating in Armenia, including:
- The Armenian Assembly of America in support of a number of human rights programs.
- The Armenian General Benevolent Union with the aim of founding the American University of Armenia and supporting the implementation of a number of projects.
- The Armenia Fund USA for the construction of schools in Vanadzor, Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as the North-South highway.
- The Ani and the People Fund for the vaccination of children.
- The People project uniting Armenian students all over the world.
Currently, the Cafesjian Family Foundation sponsors a number of programs aimed at creating jobs, as well as developing and maintaining sustainable economic activities in Armenia.
Mr. Cafesjian was an honorary member of many reputable organizations such as the New York County Lawyers Association, the United States Lawyers Society, and the Samoan Supreme Court.
He was a member of the board of directors of numerous government and non-government agencies and departments, such as West Publishing, Hudson Products, United Hospital, University of Minnesota Museum of Art, Minnesota Museum of Art, and Our Fair Carousel.
Renowned Armenian-American philanthropist Gerard Leon Cafesjian passed away on September 17, 2013, at the age of 88.